Releases > September 2008

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Old Hag You Have Killed Me

Mulligan Records LUNCD 3007

12 tracks, 42 minutes

Originally released on vinyl in 1976, available on CD since the ‘90’s and now re-released on the Mulligan label by Compass Records, this is one of the classic albums of traditional music and still holds its own in any company. With Paddy Keenan on pipes, Matt Molloy on flute, Kevin Burke on fiddle and the engine room of Donal Lunny, Triona and the late Micheal Ó’Domhnaill, the seven instrumental tracks are pure gold. ‘Music in the Glen’ kicks off a set which includes the magical ‘Otter’s Holt’ by Junior Crehan. These versions of ‘The Kid on the Mountain’ and ‘Farewell to Erin’ are justly famous. My favourites also include ‘Rosie Finn’s’ and ‘Sean Bui’. Powerful reels and jigs are epitomised by ‘Michall Gorman’s’ and ‘The Laurel Tree’. The title track is of course an absolute Bothy Band gem, full of trademark tunes.

The three Gaelic songs come from the Scottish and Donegal traditions. The unforgettable power of the harmonies on ‘Fionnghuala’ remains one of the highlights of The Bothy Band’s career, and has inspired many artists since. ‘Calum Sgaire’ and ‘Tiocfaidh an Samhradh’ get a gentler airing. Micheal leads all three with his characteristic soft and strong vocals. Triona gives us ‘The Maid of Coolmore’ from the ballad tradition, and delivers ‘Sixteen Come Next Sunday’ with impish sweetness, another abiding memory from those ‘70’s performances. All the Bothy Band recordings should soon be available in shops or from the new Mulligan website. Without going into music business politics, everyone seems happy that these albums are now available on their original label and it’s certainly good news for fans that the Mulligan stable is in such good hands. This great music deserves to be cherished.
Alex Monaghan


Corran Hill

Tin Whistle, Flute & Vocals

L. & M. Records CG5

Music has been Carmel Gunning’s life, and there is no indication that that will change. She has six albums to her name already, and with this new one, ‘Corran Hill’, she salutes family and friends from her native Geevagh, Co. Sligo; in fact, the CD is dedicated to her brother, Tom Nangle, who helped her in making it, and also because, she says, “He’s a fine singer himself”. Carmel plays the whistle and flute, and sings, too. She was introduced to traditional Irish music as a child when her father, Tom, would teach her old tunes by lilting or whistling them to her. She in turn has made it her life’s work to pass on the heritage of music to the younger generation; she is an instructor with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí éireann and at the impressively named Queen Maeve International Summer School in Sligo every August.

The songs she sings on this album include one she calls ‘Érin Grá mo Chroí’ which she got from Willie Joe McDonnell of Aclare, Co. Sligo. As one might gather from the title, it’s a song in which the emigrant pines for Ireland, “The bright star of the West, The land St. Patrick Blest, Far dearer than silver or gold”. She follows that with ‘An Gréasaí Bróg’, a version of ‘Beidh Aonach Amáireach i gContae an Chláir’. Carmel sings two songs by Geevagh man, Michael Kearns, both from an emigrant’s perspective: ‘Around St. James’s Well’, a song about a local well, and ‘The Exile Far Away’.

In the song, ‘The Geevagh Prisoners’, there’s a moving tribute to a group of local Geevagh men imprisoned in 1908 apparently for obstructing mail delivery that included a registered letter threatening eviction. A photo of the men and supporters is reproduced in the CD notes, and all are named in the caption. “Lest we forget!” Well done Carmel. Hearkening back to the days when she was featured as ‘Carmel and the Chrystals’ playing for local dances, there is yet another type of song entirely, ‘Katie Daly’, performed in upbeat style with accompaniment of mandolin, guitar and bass.

She plays dance tunes, too, on whistle and flute, and a couple of them are her own compositions. This is an album full of ‘musicality’ and sentiment; it’s lively and poignant in turn, but always engaging. Carmel’s is the ideal voice for the songs and sentiments she sings about in “the songs of the people”.
Aidan O’Hara


Morning Rush

Own label, 2007

The second-album syndrome is one which affects many performing artists as they undertake the challenge of living up to their debut album. In the case of the Henry Girls, there is no fear as ‘Morning Rush’, the sequel to their debut is in fact very well crafted indeed, reflecting the diverse mix of musical traditions that have shaped and influenced their unique blend of country, traditional, jazz and roots - each of which they perform with considerable ease and enjoyment. All three of the Mc Laughlin sisters or ‘Henry’s’ as they are better known by, have a solid understanding of music theory having each studied music at university, which helps inform their musical choices, arrangements and songs on this recording.

The opening track presents a lively, upbeat sound, creating a ‘live’ feel to the music. One instantly gets the impression that the Henry’s really enjoy with they do - and this is further deepened by their sisterly bond that unites them closely. Track six is notably a jazz arrangement featuring an impressive walking bass from Nicky Scott as well as an atmospheric intro from Matt Jennings on saxophone. The Hammond organ is also a welcome addition to this musical mix from the multi-talented Ted Ponsonby.

Perhaps the most outstanding feat of this album is how well the various genres of music sit together - a relaxed country beat blends into a chilled, jazz sound, notably featuring the blues notes on piano. Joleen’s harp weaves in out and magically adding the Celtic strand of their sound palette. Vocal entries are well timed and arranged along with some beautiful harmonies here. Overall, it’s an excellent recording presenting an eclectic mix of styles. There’s a great sound quality throughout so hats off to Billy Robinson who recorded, mixed & co-produced the album.
For further info check out their website at
Edel McLaughlin



Grab Entertainment GECD 1107 2008

Flipsides are usually the last refuge of an established band releasing the old ‘B’ sides of singles to make a few bob in retirement. On this album the Prodigals front man Gregory Grene gives us an album of songs that would never be pushed to flipsides. These twelve songs are golden. He throws us a bit with an awful first few lines on track one, ‘Work’s Too Bloody Hard’, that sounds as though the record was made in a back shed. He soon dispels that with some well-produced sounds. ‘Whiskey Asylum’ proves his credentials early on. This is classic writing by a new writer. Give it fair airplay and this could be in the repertoire of every singer worth his salt. He follows this with ‘Camera’, another self-penned simple masterpiece with piano accompaniment.

‘Liverpool Pandora’ is a fascinating re-invention and addition to an old favourite. You get a line or two of the original and then he is off at a rate of knots with a few verses of his own before slowing again and later taking us on another helter-skelter ride. He shows us his love of the canon by giving us heartfelt renditions of two traditional songs starting with ‘The Jail of Cluan Meala’ accompanied on accordion. ‘Nancy Brown’ is another lovely old song that he gives us with a twinkle in his eye as he recounts the eponymous young lady hold on to her virtue at least for a while. Not quite traditional but often thought to be is Dominic Behan’s ‘Liverpool Lou’. Grene gives us a staid and respectful rendition of this reminding us of the simple beauty of the old song so often murdered in pub and lounge. He picks up the pace again on ‘Paper and Pins’ another lovely story song and then leads us in a Kerry polka. The abiding memory of this album is the humour as well as the professionalism that Grene brings to the songs. ‘Emily’ or as he subtitles it ‘The GPS Lament’ is a case in point with a lovely traditional sound, great performance and a light tale.

Gregory Grene solo is a rare treat but more important, Flipsides is an album to hear.
Nicky Rossiter


Arc Music, EUCD 2156

‘Irish Folk At Its Best’ is a compilation CD with nineteen tracks and 69 minutes of music; good value by anyone’s standards. We’re used to getting CD’s with bilingual notes, but this one has them in English, German, French and Spanish, which tells us that Arc Music is seriously intent on reaching as wide an audience as possible. The tracks are all licensed from Cló-Iar Chonnachta in Galway, who are noted for their publishing of books and recordings mainly in the Irish language and some bilingual - in Irish and English. The mix of music consists of songs traditional and original, and tunes old and new, from groups and individuals. The first two tracks are by the group Cúnla: a medley with the unusual title, ‘Doctor O’Neill’s Peoples’, followed by a love song sung by the group’s guitar player, Stephen Fagan. The title in translation is, ‘If you go to the fair’, and so the first line goes: “If you go to the fair, make sure you’ve the sheep with you, it’s wool and it’s lamb…” That’s more or less it for the agricultural aspect of things; after that it is standard love sentiments for a beautiful girl, nicely sung to a beautifully plaintive air by Stephen.

Staying with the opening tracks, next up is Eilín Ní Bheaglaoich of the famous Kerry musical family who sings her own song, ‘Cian’, written for her son on the family’s return to Ireland after 20 years in Australia. I remember interviewing her on RTÉ Radio 1 just before she left for the land down-under about the year 1971, I think. Time flies! Although it doesn’t say so, I suspect that while Eileen (Eiblín), as I knew her way back then, could have harmonised with herself via multi-tracking, I have a strong suspicion that the voice doing the harmonies is her sister, Josie.

It would make too long to list the names of all the performers and their material, so here’s a summing up: a couple of tunes from the box and banjo duo of Johnny óg Connolly and Brian McGrath; Máirtín Tom Sheáinín and Helen Flaherty (a Connemara name, but to my ears she sounds Scottish) sing ‘An Cailín álainn’ and the ‘Mingulay Boat Song’; Cyril O’Donoghue sings his own song, ‘The Bright Side of the Moon’; Joe Corcoran and The Lonely Stranded Band perform the song, ‘Come Up the Stairs’; Parson’s Hat (Bríd Ní Chathain and Fred Johnston) give a delightful performance of the song, ‘Crann ÚÚll.’ Others appearing are Lillis Ó’Laoire, Colm Ó’Foghlú, Catherine McEvoy, Mairéad Ní Oistín, Johnny Beag, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin and Eleanor McEvoy.
Aidan O’Hara


An Cailín Rua - the Red-haired Girl

KTR001CD (Own Label)

You’d travel a long road indeed to get to the house where music of the kind we hear on Kathleen Boyle’s CD is being played. The recording is ‘An Cailín Rua’, and features Kathleen’s piano accordion playing of dance tunes, Scottish and Irish, and some original compositions of her own (and others) that reflect those two traditions. Phil Cunningham knows more than a thing or two about the piano accordion, and he says of her performance: “As a box player she is technically gifted, but for her, it’s the tune that counts and never lets ‘flash’ get in the way of the main point”.

Music is in Kathleen’s blood. Her Donegal-born father, Hughie, is a musician, and his famous father was the fiddle player and storyteller, Neillidh Boyle (1889-1961). Through the magic of modern technology Kathleen gets to play along with her grand-father on an archive recording of his famous composition ‘The Moving Clouds’, which gives the album an other worldly feeling to it.

Phil Cunningham is correct when he adds that her Scottish upbringing and her Donegal heritage provide her with influences that are “the best of both worlds”. Of course, the great thing about our shared heritage in trad music, is that there are no borders or barriers, and to hear the blend in this CD evokes a happy scene of a music session where two friends from each side of Sruth na Maoile, each with his (or her) own brand of uisce beatha - and sharing! Vive les differences!

There is no biography of Kathleen in the CD notes but from her tune annotations and web site, we learn that she’s from Glasgow and that one of her teachers there was Gerry McGeady, a man she says she’s indebted to. “The only way I could afford to pay him back……was to write him a tune”, she says, and it’s called, ‘McGeady’s Big Day’. Apropos Kathleen’s compositions, her extraordinary playing technique is matched only by her grasp of the traditional musical idiom and her understanding of every nuance of style and motif. She is a gifted composer.

On ‘An Cailín Rua’ - (the Red-haired Girl), Kathleen is accompanied by her father, Hughie (piano), friends that include singers Julie Fowlis and Heidi Talbot (one song each), Eamon Doorley (bouzouki), Ali Hutton (guitar) Kevin O’Neill (flute), Jenna Reid (fiddle), and Duncan Lyall (double bass). Producer and engineer was Martin O’Neill (who also played the bodhrán). This is Kathleen’s first solo CD and I agree with Phil Cunningham when he says that it is “one of these rare gems that come along now and again”.
Aidan O’Hara


The Redcastle Sessions

DVD 15 tracks: 85 minutes

Label-Proper Films

Cara Dillon journeys to her roots on DVD, the session in full swing gently fades as Cara, Sam and family wind their way to the breathtaking location at Inishowen’s Foyleside, the magical tinkling of ivories by pianist, composer, musical director and co-producer of their first DVD ‘The Redcastle Sessions’ Sam Lakeman instantly tugs the heartstrings. Their self penned ‘Bold Jamie’ the traditional ‘False False’, ‘Black is the colour’, ‘The Maid of Culmore’ and the Paul Brady classic ‘I am a youth that’s inclined to Ramble’ are standouts, it’s in the traditional renderings that Cara totally shines especially the combination of vocal and piano, with the arrangements stripped back, her deep roots coming to the fore, but even in their own compositions the roots are an integral part of each song. A spine tingling moment surfaces in Dougie McLean’s ‘Garden Valley’ simply piano, then Russ Barenberg slides his acoustic guitar into the mix followed by the mighty Ben Nicholls on double bass. Throughout the shoot Cara commentates on home, the locations and people that shaped her musical route.

On camera Cara says about those who inspired her - “their reality is my mythology”, a beautiful way of expressing her living culture. This DVD is a true beauty, vocals, songs, musicianship, arrangements, lighting, atmosphere, location and emotion. The spirit of the music, the people and the place carries us on that musical journey with them.
Josephine Mulvenna


Keep on Singing

Spring Records SCD 1056 2008

The title of this album says what I want to say. I say it to the Sands Family, the individual ‘grains of Sands’ and to all singers to true folk music. Listening to this collection of twelve songs reminds me of the power, potential and absolute necessity of folk music if our world is to mean anything and to have a conscience. My first experience of this family of excellent writers and performers goes back decades to a pair of old vinyl albums that opened my heart to the joy of new Irish folk. The great thing is that as we say, “they never lost it”. In 2008 the power and passion are still there and if anything the talent has grown.

Over the years the group has splintered, given us top class individual performances and then re-formed and this album would be an excellent introduction to four people whose individual talents are formidable but together can become magic. My great regret is not seeing them live - as a group. The one member I have seen live is Colum and that was a joy. He has a marvellous knack of taking the humorous aspects of live and using them to focus our attention on the serious. He does this to perfect effect on ‘Look Where I’ve Ended Up’. Who else could give us observations on modern life that make us think deeply through the laughter with phrases like, “remote controllers all over the house we have not the remotest control” or “there’s money for weapons and war games and nothing for hospital beds”.

Ben also uses observational humour but focuses more on the everyday life we all lead like in the lovely tale of thwarted romance called ‘The Cheesecake Song’. Anne has always been the distinctive voice of this group for me, ever since her haunting rendition of ‘Streets of Derry’ all those years ago. She scores again on ‘I Will Always Love You’. This is not the Dolly Parton song but rather a new composition that could become a mother’s anthem. It is a simple but elegant telling of a child growing and going - “walk across the floor but when you toddled back to me I loved you all the more”.

Tommy Sands has been pricking the consciences of nations in gentle but firm ways for decades with songs like ‘There Are Roses’. On this album two of his songs stand out. ‘Time for Asking Why’ is in the great folk tradition - often misunderstood by the ‘neo-cons’ - of asking questions of a country you love in order to have it rise to its potential. Listen to lines like, “Do you mock the democracy you cannot control”. He reminds Ireland that we are not free from guilt on the title track as lines like, “Lying here in Patrick Street unable to stand, the natives who have beaten me do not understand” ask us to bear in mind the prejudice the Irish suffered in foreign lands when we look at the ‘new Irish’ with different skins, accents or traditions.

This album is probably the best you are going to get in 2008 so make it your business to seek it out.
Nicky Rossiter


Mai Fein



Who can argue with an album with a title like this? It says it as it is as Mai Hernon gives us fourteen lovely songs unaccompanied.
I will be the first to admit that unaccompanied singing is far from my favourite genre but this lady has a voice that can make you forget that all you are getting is the human vocal chords. There is a lovely mellow warm quality to her singing that brings new life to the older songs on offer here. She opens with ‘As I Roved Out’ and follows this with ‘May Morning Dew’. A lesser-known track is ‘Shores of my Own Native Land’ although the sentiments have graced hundreds of emigration songs. Among the other tracks on offer Hernon gives full voice to ‘Una Bhan’, ‘The Wee Weaver’ and ‘Siuil A Ruin’ and will haunt the listener with these wonderful poetic songs. Her interpretation in just over 90 seconds of ‘I Know my Love’ is a revelation. Another revelation - for me anyway was - ‘Braes of Balquitter’.We hear it more often as ‘Go Lassie Go’ or ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ but Mai again takes the same words and makes it her own. Fans of Skylark may wish to compare it to Len Graham’s version.

She notes all tracks as traditional but I wonder about a song that has been tearfully strangled at wakes and weddings for decades, ‘Two Loves’ but again she rescues it from that fate and gives us a little gem. She closes proceedings with ‘The Parting Glass’ and leaves us with a new respect for unaccompanied singing.
Nicky Rossiter



Liam Clancy Studios 2007

Whisht! is the evocative name of a group of traditional Irish singers based in County Wexford. To appreciate the name, say it aloud. This beautiful collection of songs is the outward expression of their passion for all that is good and exciting in the song tradition of Ireland. Our traditional music has had a long exposure to international audiences but the unaccompanied human voice has travelled less successfully with some notable exceptions.

With the fourteen tracks on offer here the listener has an opportunity to sample the wide range of such songs that are embedded in the canon. They can be melodic songs of loss or humorous songs full of wit and mischief. Opening with ‘Edward on Lough Erne’ the album will captivate even the casual listener. The veteran Paddy Berry takes up the vocals on ‘The Maid of Ballygow’, a song thought to date from the early 1900’s is south Wexford and collected by the singer after passing through the various performers of the locality.

Other tracks go further back and further afield like ‘The Waterford Boys’ and ‘The Irish Peasant Girl’. Meanwhile ‘The Auld Grey Man’ and the wonderfully titled ‘The Nigglers from Ballyvaloo’ present us with lovely slices of social history in song. A similar vein of past history runs through the powerful ‘Carroll Ban’.

The album manages the seemingly impossible of delivering a combination of lesser-known traditional songs with the like of ‘Sliabh na mBan’ mixed in and then stunning the listener to realise that ‘The Cold Hand of Greed’ dates only from 1996 and the pen of group member Helen Kirwan, proving that music and song is timeless.

Whisht! are fully professional in their dedication and delivery on this album but as they say, they are amateurs in that they all “have day jobs”. Yet the sound and selection on offer could compete with any band of performers.
Nicky Rossiter


Go mBeannaítear Duit

Gael Linn CEFCD125


“Hewn from the natural materials of the Irish song tradition, this is music born out of the twin disciplines of the Roman liturgy and the musician’s answerability to a specific worshiping community, in this case the Gaeltacht parish of Cúil Aodha”. That statement is taken from the cover notes of the ‘Go mBeannaítear Duit’ recording by Peadar Ó’Riada & Cór Chúil Aodha, which has just been reissued by Gael Linn. The writer, John O’Keeffe of NUI Maynooth has very neatly summed up what Peadar has succeeded in realising in his production.

Peadar himself encapsulates another very important aspect of what this CD’s music is all about - in ‘its deep heart’s core’ if I might borrow a phrase. Speaking of the title track, ‘Go mBeannaítear Duit’, for example, he says, “I set this piece to music as it is an iconic text we use daily in our lives - it is part of our culture”. In an increasingly secularist world, where so much of our past is condemned, ‘the best with the worst,’ we need to ponder those words of Peadar’s carefully. He knows a thing or two. He sees in the music and song-hymns of the people the beauty of what emerged when they were impelled to express their need for the transcendent.

The choir sings in Irish and Latin, and individual singers are featured here and there. There is an authenticity and a simplicity in the Cór Chúil Aodha/Ó’Riada performance that is truly uplifting; in some ways it is the same sort of thing that is found in the Gaelic Psalm ‘presenting’ of the Free Presbyterians in Lewis and the Outer Hebrides, and in the Islamic religious recitals - the qawali and naat traditions - of Pakistan and Kashmir.

When this recording was first released on LP in 1987, Cardinal Tomás Ó’Fiaich said that it would affect people deeply. “Not for a very long time has so powerful a collection of newly-composed sacred music been published in this country”, he said. John O’Keeffe adds that since the Cardinal wrote those words, Peadar Ó’Riada’s compositional skills and technique have made a big impression, and his work is being observed with more and more interest every-where. After twenty-one years, Cór Chúil Aodha’s ‘Go mBeannaítear Duit’ still sounds fresh and appealing, and Gael Linn have done us a great service in making the recording available in CD format to a new generation.
Aidan O’Hara



Compass Records 4483

10 tracks, 52 minutes

Every one of these ten tracks was written and arranged by this Blazin’ Fiddles member from Oban, so you’ll understand that ‘Sirius’ wasn’t built in a day. The opening numbers ‘Falun Fine (Outbound)’ and ‘Bah Hamburg’ hark back to tours in 2001, when Aidan was also playing with Tabache. More recently he inspired the fusion group Sunhoney, and at times the music here has that same elusive ethereal quality, but this album never strays towards the New Age or Easy Listening shelves. It’s crisp and clear, with catchy melodies and powerful arrangements. Excitement is in plentiful supply: ‘People’s Park’ is an adrenalin rush in the Riverdance style, full and satisfying. ‘Lochaber Drive’ is more in the West Coast style, evoking Aidan’s Ulster roots with its driving rhythm and raw fiddle energy.

A dozen guest musicians add power and depth on most tracks: saxophones, trumpet, the usual back line, two other top Scottish fiddlers, plus Brian Finnegan from Flook and Harald Haugaard from Denmark. There’s a delicacy and beauty to Aidan’s fiddling on airs like ‘Alyth’ and ‘Mangersta Beach’, both wee gems. ‘Hinba’ and ‘The Santa Cruz Redwoods’ are somewhere in between, grand and stately. With the final track, ‘Falun Fine (Return)’, Aidan and friends pull everything together in a series of stunning solos from fiddles, whistle, trumpet, piano and sax. ‘Sirius’ is bigger than one man, and the man at the centre of it is well worth hearing. Highly recommended.
Alex Monaghan